Oasis In-depth Biography
Oasis shot from obscurity to stardom in 1994, becoming one of Britain's most popular and critically acclaimed bands of the decade; along with Blur and Suede, they are responsible for returning British guitar pop to the top of the charts. Led by guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher, the Manchester quintet adopts the rough, thuggish image of the Stones and the Who, crosses it with "Beatlesque" melodies and hooks, distinctly British lyrical themes and song structures like the Jam and the Kinks, and ties it all together with a massive, loud guitar roar, as well as a defiant sneer that draws equally from the Sex Pistols' rebelliousness and the Stone Roses' cocksure arrogance. Gallagher's songs frequently rework previous hits from T. Rex ("Cigarettes and Alcohol" borrows the riff from "Bang a Gong") to Wham! ("Fade Away" takes the melody from "Freedom"), yet the group always puts the hooks in different settings, updating past hits for a new era.
Originally, the group was formed by schoolmates Liam Gallagher (vocals), Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (guitar), Paul McGuigan (bass), and Tony McCaroll (drums). After spending several years as the guitar technician for the Stone Roses-inspired group the Inspiral Carpets, Noel Gallagher returned to Manchester to find that his brother had formed a band. Noel agreed to join the band if he could have complete control of the group, including contributing all the songs; the rest of the band agreed and under the new name Oasis, they began a year of intensive rehearsing.
After playing a handful of small club gigs, the band cornered Alan McGee, the head of Creation Records, and forced him to listen to their demo. Impressed, he signed the band. The group released their first single, "Supersonic," in the spring of 1994; it edged its way into the charts on the back of positive reviews. With a melody adapted from "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," "Shakermaker" became a bigger hit in the early summer. Released a month before their debut album, the soaring ballad "Live Forever" became a major hit in England. The group's first record, Definitely Maybe, became the fastest-selling debut in British history, entering the charts at number one. Oasis mania continued throughout 1994, as the group began playing larger theaters and each new single outperformed the last. However, tensions in the group began to build -- Liam and Noel refused to do joint interviews because they always fought -- and Noel Gallagher briefly left the band at the end of a difficult fall American tour; he soon re-joined and the band headed back to England. As "Supersonic" began to climb the U.S. album rock and modern rock charts, the non-LP, string-laden "Whatever" hit number two over the British Christmas season.
At the beginning of 1995, the group concentrated on America, promoting the single "Live Forever." The song became a major hit on MTV, album rock, and modern rock radio stations, peaking at number two, and Definitely Maybe went gold in the U.S. Returning to England after a sold-out American tour, the group recorded a new single, "Some Might Say." On the eve of its release, drummer Tony McCaroll parted ways with the band, with Alan White taking his place. "Some Might Say" entered the charts at number one upon its May release; its success led to all of their previous singles re-entering the indie charts. Oasis spent the rest of the summer completing their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, which was released in October of 1995. Upon its release, the album shot to number one in England, becoming the fastest-selling in the U.K. since Michael Jackson's Bad.
Over the course of 1996, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? became the second-biggest British album in history, as Oasis became international phenomenons. On the strength of the single "Wonderwall," Morning Glory became a Top Ten success in America, eventually being certified quintuple platinum; it also reached the Top Ten throughout Europe and Asia. During 1996, the Gallaghers' combative relationship frequently made newspapers and gossip columns, particularly when they suddenly pulled out of their late summer U.S. tour. This followed the group's two concerts at Knebworth, which broke records for being the biggest outdoor concert in England. After Oasis abandoned their American tour, they concentrated on recording their third album. Where their first two albums were quickly recorded, they took several months to record the third, finally completing it in the spring of 1997. The album, Be Here Now, was released in late August, with the single "D'You Know What I Mean" preceding the full-length record in July. Greeted with generally enthusiastic reviews and robust sales, Be Here Now shattered sales records in the U.K. and nearly topped the U.S. charts, positioning the quintet as the de facto rulers of rock. However, a backlash set in among both critics and record buyers over the album's perceived excesses, which meant that Be Here Now lacked the shelf life of its predecessors. Not long afterward, typical infighting unraveled the band's tour, and the group disappeared from the spotlight for a time, although a collection of B-sides, Masterplan, did follow in 1998.
As the band was recording their fourth album in the summer of 1999, Bonehead left Oasis, claiming that he wanted to spend more time with his family. Interviewed by NME on August 11, the day after the parting was made public, Noel Gallagher seemed unfazed: "It's hardly Paul McCartney leaving the Beatles." Ex-Ride guitarist Andy Bell and onetime Heavy Stereo guitarist Gem Archer signed on after the recording of 2000's Standing on the Shoulder of Giants was completed. In fall 2000, the band celebrated their monumental world tour success with the release of their first-ever live record, Familiar To Millions. The album highlights Oasis' July 2000 gig at Wembley Stadium and was released on six different formats including CD and cassette, DVD, VHS, Triple Vinyl, and Mini Disc. Two years later, Oasis surfaced with Heathen Chemistry. Worldwide dates coincided the release of Oasis' fifth studio album, however problems loomed ahead. While touring America in late summer, Noel Gallagher, Andy Bell and touring keyboardist Jay Darlington were injured in Indianapolis after their taxi collided head on with another vehicle. Oasis were back on the road in two weeks time after cancelling shows in Indianapolis, Boston and Philadelphia shows, but the album wasn't doing as well as the tour. First single "Hindu Times" barely made a mark on MTV and struggled to cling to mainstream and college radio until fall. In December 2002, Liam Gallagher and a few other members of the Oasis entourage were involved in a street scuffle in Munich. The younger Gallagher sustained facial injuries and was later arrested while two of the band's security guards sought serious medical attention. A second single, "Songbird", was issued in late winter 2003. The next album suffered delays when initial sessions with the electronica duo Death in Vegas as producers were scrapped and when drummer Alan White made his exit from the band. With Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey taking White's place, the band finished Don't Believe the Truth which saw worldwide release in May of 2005. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide